Best Way to Spend the Day at Hollywood Studios
We previously discussed the perfect itinerary for a day at Epcot. Today, we’ll do the same for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I want to be honest upfront that you won’t have as much to do here, at least not for another six weeks or so. I’ll need to update this itinerary when Toy Story Land debuts, and then it will need a third version when Star Wars Land: Galaxy’s Edge finally debuts next year. Plus, the impending arrival of the Skyliner will have an impact. Let’s stick to the basics for now, though. Here’s the best single-day itinerary for Hollywood Studios.
Always Start with Rope Drop
Let’s start with an acknowledgement. The perception is that Hollywood Studios is a half-day park. I won’t even argue the point; however, I write these itineraries under the assumption that you have single-day admission but not Park Hopper. As such, you’re at Hollywood Studios for the day. Given the paucity of attractions here, I will note a couple of side activities you could do if you’re interested, though.
Keeping that in mind, you should always show up at a Disney park a few minutes prior to its opening. This strategy is called Rope Drop, and it works brilliantly at Hollywood Studios in particular. I say this because I think that you’ll fall in love with several rides at this park. In particular, you’ll want to ride Toy Story: Midway Mania! and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror multiple times. We’re building an itinerary around this premise.
Presuming that you show up in time for Rope Drop, you’ll want to walk straight as you enter the park. You’re on Hollywood Boulevard, and you’ll follow this path just past the main stage. You’ll veer right ever so slightly so that you walk past the stage and down a flight of stairs.
You’re now on the same street as Midway Mania!. You’ll know that you’re in the right place, because you’ll look right at the Walt Disney Presents… building. You’ll turn left and walk about 100 feet to the Toy Story ride. You’re actually in a new themed land called Toy Story Land right now, although it’s still closed off until the end of June.
Midway Mania! is still open, though. Since it doesn’t have FastPasses available right now, this is a great time to visit. You’ll likely be able to ride once before a crowd shows up. After you DESTROY your friends at the game within the ride (“Mercy is for the weak”), exit the building and take a look at the wait-time sign. If it’s less than 45 minutes, you have a decision to make.
You could ride Midway Mania! a second time. If the sign says less than 30 minutes, I strongly recommend that you do. Every play-through of this carnival game is different, and you’ll get better with practice. Plus, you’re at the park to have a good time, and there’s nothing that’s purer fun at Walt Disney World than this game disguised as a ride.
Hitting the Other Big Rides
I’m going to presume that you ride twice, because you should. I mean, you trust me, right? You’ll now want to turn your attention to the Sunset Boulevard part of the park. When you leave Toy Story Land, you’ll only have one way that you can go. Follow this path past the Animation Courtyard section (don’t worry, we’ll be back) and then turn left to get on this main strip. It’s the connecting path to Hollywood Boulevard.
You’ll know that you’re going the right way, because you’ll see the ominous Twilight Zone Tower of Terror casting a shadow over the surrounding lands. This is your next destination. It’s widely considered one of the best dark rides ever built, and it’s also generally not a place that has a huge line.
Even so, you’ll want to use My Disney Experience to book FastPasses whenever possible. With this bit of planning, you can do everything at Hollywood Studios multiple times. And Tower of Terror is another attraction that varies each time. It’s a drop ride, only a computer automation system randomizes the drops. No two rides are the same, making it a gleefully exciting way to spend a few minutes.
When you’re in line here, please pay attention to the special details in the theming. Disney’s gone all-out in their world-building for the Hollywood Tower Hotel, the long-abandoned hotel that is partially located in the Twilight Zone. Also, interact with the cast members. Some of them get into their characters and enhance the experience with their macabre humor.
Once you’re done at the Tower of Terror, you’re going to follow the same path out, veering right when you see the giant guitar that signals you’re near Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. You can approach this ride in two ways. You can stand in the main land, or you can enter the Single Rider queue.
The ride experience is identical. The only change is that you won’t be able to sit by a friend if that’s important to you. Since the coaster carts only hold two people, it’s not a big deal to me, but your mileage may vary. Single Rider goes much faster. You could ride this roller coaster twice in the time that it would take in the regular line.
Time for Lunch…
Okay, you have now ridden the three best rides at Hollywood Studios, possibly more than once. You’re ready to eat. Counter service fans will have several options here. MickeyBlog previously ranked them here. I’m going to recommend Table Service meals for lunch and dinner, though. Two of the most entertaining dining experiences at Walt Disney World are at Hollywood Studios. You should eat at both places, presuming that you have the time and the food budget.
For lunch, you’ll want to eat at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. It’s a delightful eatery that resembles a 1950s drive-in movie data. Guests sit in “cars,” by which I mean that Disney has constructed four-seater dining tables that look like classic automobiles. Guests sit two by two in these not-at-all road-safe vehicles, meaning that it’s an intimate setting.
While you dine, the giant projection screen plays classic science fiction scenes, generally from the worst movies ever made. There are also some hilarious animated clips interspersed. Should you eat here for 45 minutes or so, you’ll notice that the programming begins to loop. The restaurant has also shown the same clips since its inception, adding a timeless element. Each time you visit Sci-Fi Dine-In over the years, you’ll feel a warming sense of déjà vu.
Oh, and the food is great, too!
and Some Shows!
When I compiled a list of the best shows at Walt Disney World last summer, Hollywood Studios dominated the list. I would suggest that one of the best ways to spend an afternoon at this park is by falling in love with Disney stories all over again. And this is definitely the place.
At Hollywood Studios, you can watch stage performances that recreate classic Disney Stories like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. You can belt out Let It Go to your heart’s content at For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. Action fans can see a bit of Hollywood magic with Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular!, and fans of The Muppets can watch a cute movie called Muppet*Vision 3D. You can even entertain small children with Disney Junior – Live on Stage!.
With so many shows to watch, you’ll need to prioritize your favorites. In the list I linked above, I favor Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular! plus the retellings of Frozen, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. You may have different favorites, though. In populating the itinerary, let’s assume that you pick your favorite three from this group. You should block off about three hours to do so, allowing for lines and traveling distances.
By my estimation, you should be in the 4-5 pm range at this point. And I have the perfect activity for you. Head over to what will be Star Wars Land in another 12 months or so. You’re going to ride something and then watch another show plus do a bit of shopping. The first attraction is Star Tours, which is a fresher concept than you might believe.
Yes, Star Tours has been around since 1986 (!), but Star Tours – The Adventure Continues didn’t arrive until 2011. It has some new functionality that makes each ride different. Plus, Disney has spliced in scenes from the latest trilogy. It’s the most current version of the Star Wars universe that Imagineers could possibly present in an attraction. The lines are oddly short here, though. At this point in the day, you can probably take a couple of Star Tours if you’re so inclined.
When you exit the attraction, you’ll discover the next fun activity. You’re now in a Star Wars shop. Unlike most gift shops, this one is worthy of your time. We can do a bit better, though. Instead, you should head outside to the nearby show, Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple. This 20-minute presentation skews very young, but it’s quite entertaining.
Once you’re done, your next destination is also Star Wars-centric. You’re heading over to Animation Courtyard, the place you passed earlier while walking from Midway Mania! to Tower of Terror. You want to walk straight through the heart of the courtyard. Here, you’ll find Star Wars Launch Bay, another merchandise mecca that also has a delightful character meeting with BB-8.
I actually had video of this recently pop up in my Facebook Memories feed, and I laughed anew at how adorable the encounter is. BB-8 squawks various sounds, and then the poor cast members have to make sense of the noises. It’s a lot of fun, and the pictures are great.
Dinner…and Another Show
Once you’re done hanging out with a droid, you’re ready for dinner. And the only choice here is 50’s Prime Time Café. Yes, you’re traveling back to the 1950s a couple of times today. This time will be a bit edgier, as the cast members who deliver your food pretend like they’re family members.
These servers will berate you about your unwillingness to eat your veggies, and they’ll suggest that you mind your manners at the kitchen table. It sounds serious, but I assure you that it’s not. The entire purpose of this restaurant is to foster a homey dinner environment like the ones you saw in black and white sitcoms.
The one word of warning that I will offer about eating here is that the food is thematic, too. It’s almost all extremely rich and protein-heavy. That’s why I suggest it for dinner rather than lunch. With most of your park day done, you can overindulge a bit.
Once you’re done with your meal, it’s probably around 7:30. You can go one of two ways now. You can jump back in line at your favorite rides, as they should have short wait-times at this point. Alternately, you can get in line for Fantasmic!, the crown jewel of Disney night-time shows. I would suggest the latter, especially if you’ve never seen it before. It will take the rest of your evening, but you’ll never forget the experience.
Should you prefer some rides, I’ll point out that Disney hosts a new fireworks exhibition in addition to Fantasmic!. Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a digital projection show that takes place half an hour before park closing on most nights. You can feasibly ride a lot of your favorites and then still find a good spot for this show. For Star Wars fanatics in particular, it’s a marvelous presentation.
So, that’s the current perfect itinerary for Hollywood Studios. It will change in just a few weeks, though. And I also skipped one secret event that’s worthy of its own discussion. You can look forward to an upcoming article about the mysterious, unannounced multi-character meeting at Hollywood Studios.
Thanks for visiting MickeyBlog.com! For a FREE quote on your next Disney vacation, please fill out the form below!